Cycling helps earn Portland ‘Fittest City in America’ title

Cycling helps earn Portland ‘Fittest City in America’ title

Men’s Fitness magazine has named Portland the “Fittest City in America.” While that’s certainly something to be proud of, what makes this national recognition even more notable is that cycling got top billing in the magazine’s report.

The online version of the story opens with the author sharing his first-hand experience competing in a cyclocross race at Portland International Raceway last fall. The lead photo on the story shows a row of people riding bikes across the Broadway Bridge. There’s also an image in the story of the mural in downtown Portland that reads, “Welcome to America’s Bicycle Capitol.”

How’d Portland beat out cities like San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City for top honors (and for the second year in a row no less)? Here’s an excerpt from the story:

There are dozens of ways to measure “fitness”—our 15-point proprietary formula accounts for conventional fitness as well as air quality, pedestrian and bike friendliness, obesity rates, general wellbeing, and other factors—and, all things considered, the Rose City topped our Fittest Cities list fair and square…and for the second straight year, no less. Clearly, Portlanders are doing something right.

In addition to glowing praise of how Portland’s culture encourages fitness, the magazine says being bicycle friendly is one of seven key ways cities can get more fit: Cities should “Two-wheel it at every opportunity” is how they put it.

In addition to a cyclocross race, the author also joined an evening rush-hour commute from downtown to southeast via the Hawthorne Bridge. “Crossing eastbound over the Willamette River,” he wrote, “I feel as if I’ve just merged onto a bike commuter superhighway… This bridge averages an astonishing 8,000-plus cyclist trips per day—and it’s only one of four downtown river crossings.”

While we like to debate how well our infrastructure works for bikes, or whether or not Portland’s bikeway network is as robust as it should be, I always find it interesting to read how bicycling around here feels to visitors (especially those who write for national magazines). Here’s an excerpt where the author shares his perceptions of biking around the city:

Once I’m on the road, it’s even clearer why so many people are out riding. The city practically trips over itself to accommodate bicycles, and it shows in the infrastructure. Cruising the Southeast District, I encounter signs every few blocks pointing the way—with distances and ride-time estimates—to nearby neighborhoods and major landmarks, making navigation intuitive. Bike lanes and boulevards extend in all directions, like red carpets inviting me to explore the city, safe from traffic.

In front of bars and coffee shops, bike corrals that accommodate a dozen bikes occupy what were once single-car street-parking spots. Green-painted “bike boxes” allow cyclists to wait ahead of cars at red lights, giving them a few feet advantage when the lights change. Even motorists seem genuinely concerned for my welfare.

It’s nice to see Portland singled out for being healthy, and the fact that the bicycling connection is made so blatantly clear, reinforces one of the major reasons why — when it comes to setting priorities for transportation investments — there’s simply no mode with a better return-on-investment.

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